Handling copyright is tricky, but the U of C took a strategic approach in their decision.
Adrienne Shumlich/the Gauntlet

A decision is finally reached

The U of C decides not to sign on with copyright agreement

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After months of consultation, debate and research, the University of Calgary has finally come to a decision to handle copyright dealings on their own and not sign Access Copyright and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada’s model plan. The deadline to sign on to the agreement was September 1, 2012.

There was uncertainty and discussion raised in post-secondary institutions across the country regarding whether the agreement would benefit students when the new license was introduced last April. The model license would allow students, faculty and department heads of Canadian schools to reproduce print and digital works protected under copyright.

Many educators and students were concerned that signing the plan would be far too expensive and students would not get full access to the texts and readings they need for class. The new plan would cost about $26 per student, about $700,000 in total, every year until 2015 when the plan expires. The new plan would handle copyright for online and digital works for the first time.

A June 20 press release from the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations advised post-secondary institutions to steer clear of the agreement.

“Increasing information accessibility is paramount to the improvement of post-secondary education in Canada. Signing an agreement with Access Copyright will increase restrictions and fees,” said CASA national director Zachary Dayler in the press release.

Many deadlines and extensions were granted to the U of C so that the proper time could be taken to consult all stakeholders. The copyright committee, the copyright officer and the Students’ Union all played a large role in the decision-making process.

According to U of C provost and vice-president academic Dru Marshall, a business practice was put in place to weigh out the pros and cons of signing on to the agreement. She said the decision will be positive for the university community and will help carry the institution into the future and closer to the Eyes High strategic plan.

“We assessed a number of business practices, and we assessed what it would require to meet copyright guidelines. We had to establish our own copyright shop, ensure that we had a fully functioning copyright committee, ensure that we had a copyright policy . . . and most importantly, we wanted to ensure that students had the best experience they could in the classroom,” said Marshall. “Once we analyzed all of those factors, with our copyright committee that met regularly . . . we got some great suggestions and we had a series of decision points and essentially, over time, we assessed that the business plan we had come up with was better for the U of C.”

Marshall said the risks needed to be considered to ensure a positive outcome. She is confident all the right pieces are in place at this time.

“Generally, the university community wanted us not to sign the model license, they wanted us to go on our own,” said Marshall. “We had to very carefully consider the risk and the risk management, and I think we are all very happy with the decision.”

Bound and Copied will now be printing course packs for students beginning this fall, which was discontinued when the U of C opted out of Access Copyright’s agreement in 2011.

According to SU vice-president academic Kenya-Jade Pinto, who also sits on the copyright committee, the decision of the U of C to handle copyright dealings on their own will be beneficial. She said the decision was carefully made.

“We at the SU fully support the decision,” said Pinto “It’s a bold move on part of the university, but it’s one that was made with care, deliberation and due process.”

Pinto said students played a large role in the decision-making process, which is unlike many other peer institutions.

“The student voice was included in the committee, which is extremely important,” said Pinto. “Because students were going to be impacted by the decision, it’s good that they could be a part of the process.”

Pinto said the license had flaws, and without the care and diligence, issues could have arisen. She also said that with the U of C handling copyright dealings, resources can be put in the right places.

“The provost has really recognized where there is untapped potential on campus, and she and the university have chosen to put resources into that untapped potential and ensure that we have the internal process to be able to handle copyright clearance,” said Pinto.

Marshall said everyone on campus must play a part in ensuring copyright compliance is met.